A devotional reading/reflection on Luke 24. Have you ever heard or read something so outrageous that you said or thought to yourself, "I'll have to see it to believe it.”? Have you done this with God? Is the reason you say you don’t believe God’s Word about His Son Jesus Christ because it just seems too outrageous to be true? What if you are a so-called believer, but you don’t know what to do on those days you struggle to believe God’s Word?
Read all of Luke 24.
The disciples of Jesus (this includes the Twelve and the greater group) should not have been surprised or caught off guard by Jesus’ death and later by the empty tomb. Rather they should have expected it if they had believed Jesus’ prophecies about his own death and resurrection and Scripture’s testimony of the Messiah. But the simple fact was they didn’t believe or understand Jesus when he said that he was going to die and raise on the third day. It wasn’t as if Jesus said these words in passing and probably many of the disciples didn’t hear it. On the contrary, Luke tells us there were at least three distinct times when Jesus foretold his death and resurrection (see Luke 9:21-22; 9:43-45; and 18:31-34).
In case we think maybe the disciples didn’t hear Jesus when he foretold his death and resurrection, Luke records the angels’ words to the women disciples when they were at the empty tomb. “Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise,” (Luke 24:6-8) and “they remembered his words” (v. 8). You can’t remember something if you never heard it in the first place. Jesus also tells all the disciples in 24:44, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you… .” They had heard this Word but had not received it or believed it. They wanted proof.
The women were dumbfounded when they found the tomb empty, because they had not believed Jesus’ teaching about these things and because they didn’t see Him. Then the disciples to whom the women told their story did not believe the women and the words spoken by the angels, because Jesus they did not see (Luke 24:24). They wanted to see in order to believe. Why else would they be hiding in a room with the doors locked “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19) if they believed that Jesus had conquered death?
Then there were the two unnamed disciples, not of the Twelve but of the larger group, who left Jerusalem to go to a little village called Emmaus because they were sad. Jesus had been killed and now his body was missing. (Had they believed He was alive, they would’ve stayed in Jerusalem waiting to see Him and would have been anything but sad!) Catch this irony: The disciples wanted to see Jesus for proof to believe, but when Jesus showed up it was their unbelief that kept them from seeing Him. Luke 24:16 says they saw Jesus but they didn’t see Jesus. They saw a man but they didn’t recognize him as the One they were looking for!
Catch this again: Their unbelief kept them from seeing Jesus. They didn’t need to see Jesus in order to believe; they needed to believe in order to see Jesus.
Here are some quick take home thoughts:
1. At the end of the day there will never be enough “proof” to give reason to believe. Sure, there is lots of great proof of Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ministry. In fact I think Luke 24 is a great apologetics text. Hundreds witnessed Jesus resurrected; the disciples went from fear and hiding to giving their lives even to death in order to make Jesus known among the nations. There’s no logical reason for that change other than believing and seeing the resurrected Jesus. The New Testament is very reliable as far as ancient texts go. But, if you are struggling with unbelief, it is likely because this isn’t enough for you. You want to see in order to believe. You want just one more testimony, one more proof. Scripture says, though, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. … And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:3, 6).
2. Like the prayer of the father of a child with a demon who came to Jesus in Mark 9, most days our prayer should go like his, “Lord, I believe! Help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) This prayer says I believe as much as I am able to, but I need your help and grace O God where unbelief exists. Belief isn’t just a one-sided action; it is something that we are only able to do with the help of God. Some days it is easier to believe; other days it seems near impossible. On these days, especially, cry out to God to help supply you with the faith you need. And when you believe then you will see God and Him do great things.